Pro angler earns more than $80,000 in winnings
hase Parsons, of Denmark, Wisconsin, weighed a combined total of 31.70 pounds to win the National Walleye Tour Presented by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s event at Chamberlain, South Dakota, on April 30. Parsons won a fully rigged Ranger 2080MS with a 250-horsepower Mercury outboard, $15,000 in prize money, $10,000 in Nitro Tournament Rewards and $2,327 in Anglers Advantage cash for a total of $91,922 in winnings.
Ten years ago on Lake Oahe, the then 27-year-old Parsons revealed a new technique to the walleye world – aggressively trolling bass spinnerbaits through deep, flooded trees. It was an eye-opening victory, one of several “The Next Bite” TV crew has become famous for. This time, now downstream on Lake Francis Case, Parsons took nearly the opposite approach, yet achieved the same result.
After a mediocre pre-fish, Parsons and fellow Strike King pro Tommy Kemos decided to do something rare on the second to last day of practice – fish together. With time dwindling, they wanted to be thorough as they searched for one specific pattern.
“We basically just started looking for a shallow pitching bite,” said Parsons. “With side scan, we could see some packs of fish. We’re pretty confident in our pitching abilities, and most of the time when we’re pitching, we’re artificial guys. Tom threw an artificial, and I threw a fathead. Almost immediately I got a bite with the fathead. And then in the next 20 minutes, we caught five big ones on fatheads. All we did from then on was try and find similar spots.”
Parsons and Kemos were fishing 65 miles south of the takeoff location at Arrowwood Resort, just south of Snake Creek.
“We were targeting the backs of creeks,” said Parsons. “I’m talking the back, back, where it comes up and it’s just sand. In practice, we caught some prespawners, and during the tournament we caught some postspawners. I assume that they were going back there to spawn. The water was dirty, but you could see the fish plain as day on side scan. Some of the bays had catfish, pike and smallies, and some of the bays had mainly walleyes. They were just sitting way back in the warmer water in 2 to 8 feet. It’s fitting we took first and second because we figured it out together. We sort of did the opposite of everyone else, and it worked.”
This pattern didn’t produce numbers of fish. Parsons knew other competitors were catching in excess of 60 walleyes a day. During each of the two tournament days, Parsons had only three walleyes in his livewell at noon.
“The scary thing was that we weren’t getting numbers and our bite was dying,” said Parsons. “Going into the tournament, I was not worried about getting overs, but I knew it was possible to come in without a five-fish limit. Today, we only caught six fish.”
“I was pitching 1/4-ounce Strike King crater-head jigs (chartreuse color),” said Parsons. “I would give the rod only small whiffs, not popping them. They were super lethargic. On only about 20 percent of the bites did you actually feel the tick. I think they were just chilling back there; they would just mouth it a lot of times.”
Parsons went out this morning in fifth place thinking that 32 pounds or so had a chance at winning. He blanked on his first spot, blanked on his second spot, and hit the jackpot at spot No. 3.
“My first fish was the 7-pounder. Ninety percent of people wouldn’t have felt that bite, but I use Strike King braid and can feel the lightest of bites.”
Parsons then caught a 22-incher and a 17-incher. A two-hour dead period followed. He then caught a 21 1/2-incher, which he had to throw back. With 2 1/2 hours left to fish, he was still sitting on three, although two were overs.
“I knew it was really dying, but I also thought I could still fill my limit there,” said Parsons. “I ended up catching two more 17-inchers. Then I ran back up and hit a spot 10 miles from weigh-in. With 10 minutes to go, I caught an 18-incher trolling leadcore.”
His best five Friday weighed 15.72 pounds. Combined with his 15.96 from day one, Parsons finished with a cumulative weight of 31.70 pounds to clinch his second NWT Tour event.
Tommy Kemos (second), Drake Herd (third), Steve Alverson (fourth), Ryan Buddie (fifth), Mike Defibaugh (sixth), Ryan Rieger (seventh), Troy Lorensen (eighth), Travis Sanger (ninth) and Brian Bashore (tenth) round out the top-10 pro-anglers.
Chris Stassen, of Marshall, Minnesota, took home top honors in the Co-angler Division with a total weight of 31.40 pounds. The co-angler took home a total of $7,657, which included $877 in Anglers Advantage cash.
John Herd (second), Darin McDonnel (third), Brent Nykamp (fourth), Steve Atkinson (fifth), David Anderson (sixth), Joe Venosdel (seventh), Luke Skinner (eighth), Brennan Lockwood (ninth) and Steve Beasley (tenth) round out the top-10 co-anglers.
The next stop for the NWT is set for May 27-28 on Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin.
For more details, anglers are encouraged to call 612-424-0708 or check out the website at www.nationalwalleyetour.com. From here, site visitors can learn more about the NWT, view the TV schedule and learn more about what’s in store for 2021.
National Walleye Tour events are made possible through the sponsorship and continued support of these well-respected brands: Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Ranger Boats, Mercury, Lucas Oil, Nitro, AFTCO, Triton Boats, Power-Pole, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Sunline, Valley Fashions, T-H Marine, Atlas and G-Juice.
2021 NWT scheduled events:
May 27-28 – Sturgeon Bay (Sturgeon Bay, Wis.)
June 24-25 – Lake Erie (Huron, Ohio)
July 29-30 – Lake Oahe (Mobridge, S.D.)
Championship – September 22-24 – Otter Tail Lake (Otter Tail Lake, Minn.)